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Title: Residential electricity demand on CAISO Flex Alert days: a case study of voluntary emergency demand response programs

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) utilizes a system-wide, voluntary demand response (DR) tool, called the Flex Alert program, designed to reduce energy usage during peak hours, particularly on hot summer afternoons when surges in electricity demand threaten to exceed available generation resources. However, the few analyses on the efficacy of CAISO Flex Alerts have produced inconsistent results and do not investigate how participation varies across sectors, regions, population demographics, or time. Evaluating the efficacy of DR tools is difficult as there is no ground truth in terms of what demand would have been in the absence of the DR event. Thus, we first define two metrics that to evaluate how responsive customers were to Flex Alerts, including theFlex Period Response, which estimates how much demand was shifted away from the Flex Alert period, and theRamping Response, which estimates changes in demand during the first hour of the Flex Alert period. We then analyze the hourly load response of the residential sector, based on ∼200 000 unique homes, on 17 Flex Alert days during the period spanning 2015–2020 across the Southern California Edison (SCE) utility’s territory and compare it to total SCE load. We find that the Flex Period Response varied across Flex Alert days for both the residential (−18% to +3%) and total SCE load (−7% to +4%) and is more dependent on but less correlated with temperature for the residential load than total SCE load. We also find that responsiveness varied across subpopulations (e.g. high-income, high-demand customers are more responsive) and census tracts, implying that some households have more load flexibility during Flex Alerts than others. The variability in customer engagement suggests that customer participation in this type of program is not reliable, particularly on extreme heat days, highlighting a shortcoming in unincentivized, voluntary DR programs.

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IOP Publishing
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Environmental Research: Energy
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Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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